A section of beach at Barton-on-Sea in Hampshire on the southern English coast has been closed to the public after a section of cliff collapsed onto it on Tuesday 9 May 2017. A section of cliff about one meter wide and twenty meters long at the Barton-on-Sea Golf Club is understood to have given way at about 5.30 pm British Summertime, and the beach has been closed after geologists from New Forest District Council raised concerns that further landslips were likely. Despite the warnings, a number of people have been sighted at the base of the cliffs since the warning was put into place, almost certainly looking for fossils which are commonly exposed on the cliffs following such events.
Landslips are often associated with wet weather, as high levels of rainfall can cause soft sediments to become waterlogged and lose cohesion, but in this case the reverse is thought ot be the case; a long period of dry weather has caused the sandstone to dry out and become friable. Rainfall is predicted for the area in the next week, though this is not thought likely to solve the problem; adding water to the now losened sediments is likely to result in further cliff collapses.
Barton-on-Sea is noted for its numerous fossils, particularly Shark's teeth and Gastropods, and is considered to be a good fossil-hunting site for all the family, due to the ease of finding fossils on the foreshore. The fossils come from the Late Eocene Barton Formation (about 36 million years old), which outcrops on the cliffs, allowing fossils to fall to the beach below. The location is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, which means fossils may be collected from the beach, but hammering or other excavation work on the cliffs is strictly forbidden. This means that, asat many other fossil-producing cliffs, landslips are of particular interest to fossil collectors, as this is the time when new material becomes available.
UK Fossils Network.
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